Skip to content

Netflix Review: Over the Moon

April 21, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

2021 Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature

Over the Moon is a brightly coloured animated musical that serves as the feature directorial debut of former Disney animator Glen Keane, who previously won an Oscar for his 2017 short film Dear Basketball. The film has some appealing elements, which is to be expected, but it also seems so focused on its visuals that it feels somewhat underdeveloped in terms of story.

A co-production between Netflix and China’s Pearl Studio, the film centres around Fei Fei (Cathy Ang), a girl in China who grew up listening to her mother’s (Ruthie Ann Miles) stories about a moon goddess who waits on the lunar surface for the return of her one true love. Much of the story takes place after her mother passes away, which is shown during an early montage.

When her father (John Cho) starts dating a new woman, Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), who brings along a hyperactive son named Chin (Robert G. Chiu), Fei Fei panics at the prospect of him remarrying. She decides to build a rocket to the moon so that she can visit the moon goddess, Chang’e (Philippa Soo), and reunite her with her lost love, in hopes that this will restore her father’s faith and stop him from remarrying.

It’s not long before Fei Fei blasts off into the stars and lands on the lunar surface, but Chang’e is much different than she imagined, and sends her on a quest for a mysterious gift in exchange for proof of her existence. At this point, Over the Moon changes in tone, and essentially becomes a hyperactive colour and light show. The shift happens as soon as the characters get to the lunar surface, and Chang’e shows up to belt out the earwormy, EDM-inspired song “Ultraluminary,” in a candy-coloured sequence that could best be described as trying to emulate a sugar rush.

Keane, who co-directs with John Kahrs, the filmmaker behind Disney’s Oscar-winning animated short Paperman, has crafted a film that seems focused on delivering a visual feast. The film blends several different animation styles, from the more realistic scenes in China, to the abstract, neon-coloured scenes on the lunar surface, a world that is populated by blobby shapes and talking moon cakes. The two halves are so distinct from each other, that it ends up feeling like two different movies in one. The film is at its strongest during its more grounded first act, and actually becomes less interesting once it gets to the moon, where the visuals are polished and smooth to the point of lacking character.

In terms of story, Over the Moon is mostly predictable, and lacks the stronger narrative beats of the 1990s Disney classics, which Keane had a hand in crafting, that it is clearly modelled after. The basic elements are all here, including musical numbers, a magical quest, and a variety of comic sidekicks, including a talkative green pangolin named Gobi (Ken Jeong), who is living in exile on the moon and teams up with Fei Fei. But these elements are sort of cobbled together, and the film ends up feeling like it is trying to copy a formula that worked before, without quite getting the balance right.

I’ve watched Over the Moon twice now, and both times found myself liking parts of the film, but feeling slightly underwhelmed by it as a whole. The songs, which encompass different styles and include little motifs that keep recurring throughout, do a decent job of servicing the story, but they are also somewhat generic, and don’t really seem like they will have staying power outside of the movie.

I did like how some of the Chinese cultural elements are incorporated into the film, which mainly takes place during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The story also allow for some more tender scenes, including a surprisingly sweet song that Gobi sings that is one of the better tunes in the movie. But the film as a whole feels too busy for its own good, in a way that somewhat overshadows its more genuine emotional moments. Still, Over the Moon is mildly entertaining to watch with its mix of colourful animation and poppy musical numbers, and younger audience members are sure to get something out of it.

Over the Moon is now available to stream exclusively on Netflix.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: